The wonderfully vintage Pacific Crest Trail trip of the Murray family (photos and video)

As hippies flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood during the Summer of Love in 1967, the Vietnam War raged and protests spilled from college campuses into the streets.

The Murrays, a young family of five, lived in Lagunitas, Calif.,  just north of San Francisco in Marin County. This tiny idyllic town is tucked away in the rolling hills of the San Geronimo Valley, and was very near the epicenter of the cultural revolution.

Watch Bernadette Murray tell the story

At night, the family would gather at the dinner table and talk. They had no television. Instead they read together – Laura Ingalls Wilder’s children’s novels about the Little House on the Prairie were favorites – and began to plan a wilderness trek to go back to life in a simpler time, one without drugs. The discussion sooned turned into an idea for a grand “packtrip” with the objective of pioneering the Pacific Crest Trail on horseback.

On Oct. 2, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the National Trails System Act, naming the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails the country’s first two National Scenic Trails.


The Murray kids at the start of their trip.


Ready to kick off from the Mexican border fence.

In 1969, in the middle of the school year, Barry and Bernice Murray checked their children out of school. For Barry Jr., age 12; Bernadette, age 10; and Colette, age 8, the trail became their classroom and home. Their horses, all rescuses, became extended members of the family.

They set out from the southern terminus at the Mexican border on April 26, determined to thru-ride the newly minted trail from Mexico to Canada. At that time, the trail, in many places, was not much more than a dotted line on a map. Back then the PCT used other trails, dirt roads and even pavement to link together well established trails – the John Muir in California, the Oregon Skyline and the Cascade Crest in Washington — allowing for a border-to-border journey.


Packing up on April 26, 1969.

Along the way, the Murrays encountered many perils. The most current maps available were outdated. They came to locked gates and met ranchers who didn’t want trail users on their land. Some greeted the family with loaded firearms. Their pack string became stuck in quicksand. They crossed dilapidated swinging bridges and happened upon rattlesnakes. Every day was a struggle to survive while finding and marking their way on the trail. They carried a shovel, a Pulaski and an ax to blaze and build the trail as they traveled.


Outstanding poses at the Peter Grub Hut near Lake Tahoe.

On Sept. 9, 1969, hampered by rough trail conditions and raging rivers from the melt-off of the 100-year snowpack in the High Sierra, they made it to Mt. Lassen. They wintered and regrouped, returning to spot where they left off, better prepared and with renewed enthusiasm. They brought their pregnant mare, Crazy Daisy Mae, who gave birth to a filly, Tagalong, near Indian Heaven. The Murray Family completed their trek, reaching the Canadian border on Oct. 7, 1970.


Bernadette and Tagalong.

The Murray family at the Canadian border. October 7, 1970.

The Murray family at the Canadian border. October 7, 1970.

More on the story of the Murray family

On February 7, 2015 at the PCTA’s Mount Hood Chapter’s annual meeting at the U.S. Forest Service Region 6 headquarters, Bernadette Murray gave a show-and-tell slideshow presentation on her experience. Read the recap.


Bernadette Murray with Mt. Hood in the background.

Watch the video

Thanks to Bernadette Murray for sharing this story with us. Love Pacific Crest Trail history? Read more online, and consider joining to get our magazine, where we write about the heritage of the trail.